I was commissioned to create a statue of Eric Liddell for the foyer of the planned Eric Liddell Sports Centre, which was to be constructed in the grounds of Eltham College. It seemed I was in the right place at the right time. I was Artist in Residence at Eltham College, the school which Eric had attended in 1908 as the son of a missionary. It felt wonderful to walk in the beautiful grounds of the school knowing that Eric too had walked there, and to retreat to an intimate attic studio in the Headmaster’s garden to study and ponder on the qualities of this unique man. I felt privileged, not just to be working in that space, but to have been entrusted to honour such an inspirational soul.
The more I read and studied about him, the more I realised that his courage was exceptional; not least in the manner of his running. It is well known that he presented a uniquely strange image of surrender as he approached the final 30 metres of the race. I knew that this was the moment I needed to try to capture, so I asked one of the young sportsmen in the 6th form to model for me. His first task was to run at full pelt across the playing field, and in the last stretch of this sprint to throw his head back in the manner of Eric. Witnessing this I remember my heart catching in my mouth. The youth told me it was a truly terrifying sensation, to suddenly have lost sight of your goal but yet to believe and trust that you would be taken there. In my heart the vision I had then was that Eric was striving, as a Christian, to reach the ultimate goal, to surrender himself body and soul to God. There was for me in his physical gesture of throwing his head back and reaching his arm upwards in an evangelistic ecstasy of surrender, an echo of Christ.
He had become at that moment the nickname given to him by the press, “The Flying Scotsman.”